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The Schmooze

6 Movies To Atone To on Yom Kippur

Now we know some consider it heretical to watch movies on Yom Kippur, but rumor has it that some Jews (GASP!) spend the Day of Atonement propped in front of a TV screen.

In Israel, that is not an option. As you may or may not know, all TV channels turn dark once the moment the sun sets and Yom Kippur begins. When I was a kid, back when Blockbuster still existed (may it rest in peace), families would race there the day before Yom Kippur to rent some primo DVDs before the shelves were raided by the rest of the city. It was a true feat of strength. And it didn’t have much to do with atoning.

And so, without comment or judgment, I have prepared this list of repentance-themed movies for those of you who want to spend the day ignoring the growls from your stomaches by zonking out in front of a computer screen.

And since there’s still a few good hours to go before Yom Kippur, those of you who are being good and abstaining from music and TV can still watch some of these to get in the atonement mood.

1) BFF’s. You think they’re forever, and then they attack you with a stapler. What’s a girl to do? Forgive, of course. “Zero Motivation” is Talya Lavie’s (not to be mistaken for ) debut movie is all about being young and selfishly hurting the people you care about. Forgiveness starts with epic shredding (literally) and fights with office supplies. Also, Freecell.

2) Your family members are sometimes the hardest people to forgive, no matter how unconventional. And saying sorry to your spouse? There’s nothing quite so difficult and quite so important. We all screw up in relationships, and we all make mistakes in parenting. “The Kids Are Alright” is about learning to forgive the ones your love, and take responsibility for your own actions. So what’s so Jewish about this film? Nothing, aside for its Emmy award winning director, Lisa Cholodenko.

3) You know what’s a good place for some repentance? Prison. Yes, “Orange is the New Black”, directed by the inimitable Jewess Jenji Kohan, is full of tales of redemption. (Bonus: the food is kosher!)

4) Remember that one time you had to forgive your husband for making you live a lie for thirty years while he was sleeping with his (male) best friend? Yeah, that. But, you know, at least you have Jane Fonda on your side. “Grace & Frankie” is a great Netflix series you need to be watching, with Lily Tomlin as a Jewish hippie mom whose husband Saul leaves her for his business partner. One of my favorite scenes of redemption involves kiddush and a Shabbat dinner.

5) My favorite movie to cry to and perfect atonement movie is “Rachel At the Wedding”. The script was written by Jenny Lumet, daughter of famous MOT Sidney Lumet, and if you haven’t seen it yet, do it. It’s heart-wrenching, and one of those movies that you can watch over and over again, with raw performances starring Anne Hathaway, as Rachel, fresh from rehab and seemingly beyond redemption. It’s a movie about learning to forgive in spite of everything – and especially about learning to forgive yourself.

6) How do you repent for things you can’t even remember? That’s the question behind Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir”, a movie about memory and the Lebanon War. It’s a hard movie to watch, but full of moments of introspection.

Happy fasting!

What are your favorite atonement related movies? Let us know in the comments!


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